Partly Cloudy
H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    Partly Cloudy. H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    Partly Cloudy. H 82° L 60°

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

State & Regional Govt & Politics
Rumors and posturing: The shadow campaign for Isakson’s Senate seat

Rumors and posturing: The shadow campaign for Isakson’s Senate seat

Rumors and posturing: The shadow campaign for Isakson’s Senate seat
As Gov. Brian Kemp, left, considers who to fill the U.S. Senate seat Johnny Isakson is leaving for health reasons, the governor’s allies have been flooded with messages from potential candidates for the appointment. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Rumors and posturing: The shadow campaign for Isakson’s Senate seat

Intense rounds of phone calls with supporters and donors. Soul-searching conversations with relatives and dear friends. Strategy sessions with advisers to map out the next decade on an uncertain playing field.

On the surface, the jockeying for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat has seemed quiet in the week since the Republican upended Georgia politics by announcing he would step down later this year as he struggles with his health.

But just out of sight, the maneuvering for Isakson’s soon-to-be-vacated spot has intensified as ambitious Republicans position themselves for Gov. Brian Kemp’s blessing and aspiring Democrats assess whether they should make a statewide run.

Interviews with more than a dozen potential candidates, operatives and elected officials showed the shadow campaign is well underway, though few were willing to talk publicly. Many Republicans are wary of looking too eager or upsetting Kemp; many Democrats are waiting for the field to gel.

Still, what they described was a blitz of behind-the-scenes activity to accompany the more overt developments in Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race, where three Democrats are challenging first-term Republican David Perdue’s re-election bid.

Kemp’s allies have been peppered with a barrage of messages from hopefuls and their supporters about the appointment to fill Isakson’s seat, which runs through 2020. Unfounded rumors have sparked frantic calls. And potential candidates — both likely and long-shot — have encouraged journalists to float their names.

The interest is so intense that the Democratic Party of Georgia quickly arranged a meeting in Atlanta next week with national operatives to help hone their 2020 strategy now that Georgia has two competitive U.S. Senate races.

And on the GOP side a perceived front-runner has emerged: U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, a former state legislator and chaplain who is the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and staunch ally of President Donald Trump.

What’s been missing so far from the equation is Kemp, who has said little publicly about the Senate seat as his administration has raced to prepare for Hurricane Dorian’s Atlantic onslaught. As the storm fades and forecasts improve, though, he’ll soon shift more attention to filling the seat.


Opinion: Our sycophantic senator

Rumors and surprises

Isakson’s surprise announcement gave the governor and others in Georgia’s political class little time to prepare. Kemp was only informed of the three-term Republican’s decision shortly before his office issued a press release, and no pre-arranged deal was cut to anoint someone both men agreed upon.

That leaves the race open to an array of potential contenders. Some are tried-and-true options, such as statewide elected officials and congressional leaders. Others are less conventional, including criminal justice figures and business executives.

Whoever the governor picks would have to run an intensely scrutinized and immensely costly race in 2020 to fill the final two years of Isakson’s term and, if he or she wins, wage another campaign in 2022 for a full term on a ticket with Kemp.

What’s less talked about is the race that will probably be sandwiched in between: a Jan. 5, 2021, runoff if no candidate on the November 2020 ballot gets a majority of the vote. That means Kemp’s selection will have to carry the ballot alone in a contest that could be at the center of the nation’s political spotlight if control of the Senate is at stake.

More than a dozen Republican hopefuls are seen as strong candidates and are busily assessing their ties to both Kemp and Perdue, who has a vast network of influential donors and operatives likely to weigh in on a decision.

Kemp’s selection will also likely have to pass muster with Trump, since the Senate races are bound to affect his chances in Georgia, where Republicans have won every presidential contest since 1996. A single tweet from the president could make or break the pick’s popularity with Georgia’s GOP faithful, the thinking goes, so he’d have to be on board.

Strategists and politicians are trading info on early favorites, talking up their ability to collect campaign cash or personal wealth, their knack for firing up the party’s base, their talent for bipartisanship, their voting record, their loyalty to Trump and their connection to Kemp.

Some are circulating potentially problematic details about rivals, too: nasty quotes about Trump during the 2016 campaign, financial problems that have surfaced in previous runs for office, votes that could turn off conservative supporters, lackluster fundraising numbers.

And false rumors are spreading fast — so fast that even people close to Kemp can’t help but laugh at what they hear: that the governor would immediately make the decision (he didn’t), that he has already whittled down a shortlist (he hasn’t) and that he’s considering untested or off-the-wall picks for the seat.

(One doozy floating around GOP circles had Kemp ready to tap his onetime archrival, former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, for the seat.)

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks during a hearing on July 12, 2019. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

Georgia’s Doug Collins’ to take front row seat in Mueller hearing

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks during a hearing on July 12, 2019. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

‘You’re honored’

Many Republicans, including some of his rivals, see Collins as one of the most formidable candidates if Kemp decides to seek someone who can mobilize the party’s conservative base.

Collins’ lead role on the House Judiciary Committee has made him a household name to supporters of Trump, who complimented him in a tweet last week. His Gainesville-based district is one of the most conservative on the Eastern Seaboard and is home to the state’s largest trove of GOP primary voters.

He and his allies are intensely lobbying for the appointment, though Collins has declined to comment on his interest beyond saying that he’s “humbled” to be considered.

Others could also make a solid case, including U.S. Reps. Tom Graves and Drew Ferguson, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel. Another name that’s made the rounds is state Sen. Burt Jones, who could potentially pump some of his family’s petroleum fortune into the race.

“It’s going to be an interesting process. We haven’t seen anything like this in Georgia in quite some time, and there are plenty of people jockeying for consideration,” said Jones, one of the first state officials to endorse Trump.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from friends and supporters inquiring about whether I’m putting my name in the hat,” Jones said. “And when your name gets out there, you’re honored.”

Kemp’s aides are also expected to explore tapping a less conventional candidate who could appeal to voters in the suburbs, such as business executive Kelly Loeffler.

Another figure considered a top-tier possibility is U.S. Attorney BJay Pak, a former GOP state legislator from Gwinnett County of Korean descent who left politics in 2017 when he was appointed by Trump. 

Outside groups are trying to exert pressure on Kemp. A supporter of former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston launched a “Bring Back Jack” Facebook page. The conservative Georgia Republican Assembly passed a unanimous resolution urging Kemp to tap former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun to the seat, something he is highly unlikely to do.

And some are distancing themselves from the process entirely. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, a former top aide to Isakson who considers the U.S. senator a trusted mentor, is said to have not made any calls or promote any talk of a potential appointment to his former boss’ seat.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia’s 6th District. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

‘I’m so grateful’: 49 attain U.S. citizenship in Atlanta ceremony

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia’s 6th District. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

A surplus of candidates? 

Several of the Democrats eyeing the Senate contests are grappling with dueling challenges.

On one hand, the prospect of running in a free-for-all race in November 2020 without a party primary opens the door to more centrist candidates. On the other, the idea of running against a yet-to-be-named Republican who could have limitless resources is agonizing.

One potential candidate spoke of conflicting emotions — wanting to run in the morning, thinking better of it by nightfall, wanting to run again the next day. Others say they’re waiting until more candidates decide whether they’re in or out until they make their move.

With Stacey Abrams not in contention — she ruled herself out hours after Isakson’s announcement — the biggest of those names might be U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who used her platform as a national gun control advocate to flip a suburban Atlanta district last year. It was the party’s biggest victory in 2018.

She’s said to be seriously considering a run, though some state and national Democrats are urging her to stay in the U.S. House, where she has the advantage of incumbency against Handel and several other Republicans looking to win back the seat.

There are numerous other contenders kicking the tires. They include Michelle Nunn, a nonprofit executive who lost to Perdue in 2014; Jason Carter, the party’s gubernatorial contender the same year; and DeKalb County Chief Executive Michael Thurmond, a three-time state labor commissioner.

There’s also a crop of rising party leaders who have never sought statewide office before weighing a potential bid, a list that includes state Sens. Jen Jordan and Nikema Williams, former 6th Congressional District candidate Jon Ossoff and DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.

And some state Democrats are escalating their efforts to recruit the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a nationally known civil rights leader. Warnock flirted with a campaign against Isakson in 2016 and hasn’t ruled out a run this cycle.

‘Shaping’ 2020

The question many of those candidates face is not just whether to run — but which race to enter.

Suddenly, the Democrats who passed on the chance to challenge Perdue are exploring whether to run against him now that the national party seems guaranteed to pour unprecedented resources into Georgia.

Those who are toying with challenging Perdue say they aren’t fazed by the three candidates who are already in the race, and they figure it will be easier to defeat the first-term Republican in 2020 than to try to win a runoff against a Kemp appointee in 2021.

That presents a monster headache to Democratic leaders worried that a glut of candidates could jeopardize their chances at nabbing either seat. It’s one reason why national party operatives are headed to Atlanta next week to hash out strategy and meet with potential contenders.

“We are making sure the party infrastructure is strong for whoever runs. We are going to sit down with candidates to make sure they know what it takes to run,” said Williams, who is chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

“I want to make sure we’re set up for the best outcome for the party. What happens in Georgia will shape the 2020 election.”

Read More


  • A 13-year-old boy suffered injuries when he was struck Wednesday morning by a car in South Carolina while he was walking his little sister to a bus stop, police said. >> Read more trending news  Police said the incident happened after dispatchers started to get calls around 7 a.m. about a Chrysler PT Cruiser and a silver sedan that appeared to be involved in a road rage situation near the intersection of Rutherford Road and Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greenville. Police said near the intersection of North Pleasantburg Drive and Mallory Road, the driver of the PT Cruiser lost control and drove onto the sidewalk, striking the 13-year-old. The boy was thrown into the roadway, officials said. His sister was not injured. Authorities said the boy was conscious after the incident. He was taken to a medical facility for evaluation and treatment of his injuries. His condition was not immediately known. The driver of the PT Cruiser was taken to a medical facility with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the suspected road rage incident left the scene before authorities arrived. Authorities continued work Wednesday to identify the driver. The collision also damaged power lines, causing an outage, police said.
  • A police officer in western Pennsylvania is facing charges that he used his position to have unwanted sexual contact with a woman, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday. >> Read more trending news  The incident in which Dustin Devault, 47, is accused happened while he served as an officer in Monongahela, officials said. He now works as a part-time officer with the Forward Township Police Department and as a police officer for Highmark. Authorities said the sexual assault is alleged to have happened in a police vehicle while Devault was on duty. Devault allegedly first met the woman in the summer of 2018 during a traffic stop, a grand jury found. The two met and texted several times afterward. The woman told authorities it was her understanding that Devault was going to help her become a police officer and seek treatment for a loved one who was suffering from substance use, according to investigators. On one occasion that the two met, Devault allegedly showed up in full uniform in an unmarked car. While in the car, the woman claims Devault inappropriately touched her several times and repeatedly asked her to have sex with him. 'When you are in that situation, you just freeze. You don't know what to do. He has a gun on him. He is a police officer. And I'm just a female. I just wanted to survive that moment,' the woman said during her testimony to the grand jury. The grand jury found Devault lied to his superiors in the Monongahela Police Department -- where he was removed from his position -- about his interactions with the woman and encouraged a co-worker to also lie. Devault is charged with indecent assault, official oppression and obstructing the administration of law or other governmental functions.
  • A Maine fisherman was stunned Tuesday when he pulled in his fresh catch of lobster from York Harbor. >> Read more trending news  Josh O’Brien told WSCH-TV he found a baby claw growing out of a lobster’s normal claw. “Out of all the thousands of lobsters we catch every week and everything we've caught so far this year, this is only the second of its kind we've seen,” O'Brien said.  The lobsterman cautioned against allowing the unusual growth to turn stomachs, telling WSCH the lobster is fine to eat.  “It's neat to see something like this out of the ordinary and keeps things interesting on the boat.”
  • A Maine woman is accused of rubbing fentanyl residue on her 1-year-old daughter's gums to help her sleep, which caused the child's death nearly a year ago, according to court documents. >> Read more trending news  Kimberly Nelligan, 33, of Bangor, was arrested Tuesday and charged with endangering the welfare of a child., the Bangor Daily News reported. Nelligan also faces a misdemeanor drug charge, WMTW reported. According to court documents, Nelligan had also used fentanyl on her older children. Nelligan called police Oct. 10, 2018, to report her baby was not breathing, the Daily News reported. First responders performed CPR on the child and took her to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead, WCSH reported. According to detectives, the state medical examiner's office determined the cause of death was from probable toxic effects of fentanyl, WMTW reported. In a police affidavit, the baby’s father told detectives he had seen Nelligan rub the residue of the drug on her daughter’s gums about 15 times, the Daily News reported. Nelligan allegedly told the father she had done the same thing to her two older children when they were babies, according to the affidavit. She insisted she was not trying to injure the child. “You know I didn’t hurt our daughter on purpose,” Nelligan allegedly said to the father, according to the affidavit. Nelligan was taken to the Penobscot County Jail, WCSH reported. She is being held without bond, the television station reported.
  • The anti-gun violence group Sandy Hook Promise Foundation released a public service announcement Wednesday showing students using ordinary back-to-school items to protect themselves from an active shooter. The chilling video shows smiling children talking about their new school items until the scene switches to students using new shoes to run from a shooter, a boy using a new skateboard to bust out a window to escape gunfire, and, the most heart-wrenching, a girl hiding in the bathroom texting her mother that she loves her. >> Read more trending news  The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, which has called for bans on weapons and the sale of large amounts of ammunition, grew out of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot and killed – 20 children and six adults. The foundation warned viewers that the video is disturbing and explained in a press release why they produced it. “So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country,” the press release read. “Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn’t have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, in the press release. Hockley’s son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting. The PSA is below. Warning: Some people may find the contents disturbing.
  • The cartoonist who brought you the boneless chicken ranch and Mount Stoogemore may be coming back. >> Read more trending news  Gary Larson, whose off-the-wall, one-panel cartoon strip 'The Far Side' produced laughs from 1980 to 1995, hinted as much on 'The Far Side' website. A cartoon drawn by Larson showed a man with a blowtorch thawing a block of ice that contained some of Larson's more familiar characters. Underneath the drawing is a message -- “Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen. A new online era of 'The Far Side' is coming!” The website, dormant for years, has been maintained by syndicator Andrews McMeel Universal, according to The Oregonian. Larson, 69, created a cult following with his cartoons, The New York Times reported. The strip was syndicated in more than 1,900 newspapers, running from Jan, 1, 1980, to Jan. 1, 1995. The strip expanded to merchandising items like day-by-day calendars, coffee mugs, T-shirts and even greeting cards, the newspaper reported. 'The Far Side' brand was pulling in an estimated $500 million before Larson announced his retirement in October 1994, according to the Times. Comic strips began to fade near the end of the 20th century, coinciding with the decline of newspapers. Berke Breathed ended 'Bloom County' in 1989, and Bill Watterson stopped drawing 'Calvin & Hobbes' in 1995, The Oregonian reported. 'Peanuts' creator Charles M. Schultz's death in 2000 ended his iconic comic strip's 50-year-run, the newspaper reported. So, are slug vacation disasters making a comeback? Will bears, alligators, robins, saber-toothed tigers and other animals be returning to the comic universe?  Judging from 'The Far Side' website tease, that sense of the absurd could be returning.